House Hunting: Watch for These Five Small Signs That Can Indicate Much Bigger Problems with a Home

House Hunting: Watch for These Five Small Signs That Can Indicate Much Bigger Problems with a HomeIt’s not uncommon for homebuyers to recount horror stories about properties that appeared to be fine at first glance, but were actually hiding very expensive problems. If you fail to do your due diligence, you might find your dream house turning into a nightmare. The next time you walk through a house, pay attention for these five signs that the property might be hiding a unfortounate secret or two.

Mold, Water Spots and Water Damage

Older and newer homes alike may develop a leaky pipe or another similar plumbing issue from time to time, but any type of water issue can result in mold growth inside the walls. Water spots and warped wood indicate that the property has had a water issue in the past, and this means that the property should be more thoroughly inspected for mold growth before you make a purchase.

Doors and Windows That Stick

One of the most common signs of a foundation issue is doors and windows that stick or that are difficult to open and close. As you walk through the home, open and close the doors at leisure to identify if they are not in the frame properly. The issue should be reviewed by a structural home inspector or foundation contractor.

Small Cracks in the Walls

Some cracks in both interior and exterior walls can indicate that the home’s foundation has shifted and is no longer flat and level. Significant issues may be indicated by molding or door frames that appear to have shifted after installation.

Fresh Paint on a Small Area of the Wall

Many property sellers will apply fresh paint to walls before listing a home for sale, and this is not necessarily a sign of damage to the home. However, when fresh paint is applied on one area of the wall alone, this may be a sign that the homeowner is attempting to conceal water damage or other related issues with the property. Further inspection of the property is in order.

Floors That Slant

Any time a floor slants to a level that you feel as though you are walking up or down across the home, this is a significant indicator that the foundation has shifted. Foundation issues result in the movement of the foundation that the entire home rests on, and this can result in an uneven feeling when you walk across the floor. If you notice that the floors in a property slant, you should schedule an inspection of the foundation.

These small signs are symptoms of large problems, and they should concern you. If you notice any of these problems on a walkthrough, walk away from the home and contact a real estate professional for assistance.

Considering a Vacation Home? Six Tips for Buying a House or Condo for Relaxation and Vacation Use

Considering a Vacation Home? Six Tips for Buying a House or Condo for Relaxation and Vacation UseIf you’ve just returned from the vacation of a lifetime, you probably wish that wonderful time never had to end. When you buy a vacation home or condo, you can guarantee that you have an escape that will provide you with years of enjoyment. Before you take the plunge, though, take advantage of these six helpful tips about buying a vacation home.

Choose Someplace Versatile

When buying a vacation home, it’s all about getting the most out of your investment. Consider choosing a place that you can enjoy throughout the year. Your ideal vacation home will be a haven in the summer, a beauty in the fall, a refresher during the spring, and the perfect place to celebrate the winter holidays.

Think About Convenience

When you choose your vacation home, you will want to find a relaxing getaway that fits your lifestyle. If you love to have easy access to the grocery store and other amenities, don’t buy in a remote location. If instead you’d prefer something secluded, opt for a home that is hidden far from civilization.

Consider Your Neighbors

Depending on where you choose to buy a vacation home, you’re likely to be surrounded by others who love the area as much as you do. You need to decide if you want to have many others who are in close proximity or if you prefer having your space to yourself.

Find Out About Taxes

If you are opting for an extremely popular location, beware of high taxes. You want to go into your purchase with your eyes wide open. If you choose a home that is off the beaten path, you could have a more favorable tax rate.

Learn About Restrictions

You may have restrictions to deal with when you buy a vacation home. From a Home Owner’s Association that stipulates regulations about the care of property to restrictions in paint schemes, you may not have complete freedom with your property.

Look For Excellent Deals

Whether it is due to the strained economy or someone who has to make a property move quickly, you could find a phenomenal deal. Don’t rush into any sale until you’ve reviewed all of your options. Buying a home that is in a community neighboring a hot spot (instead of in the hot spot itself) could make for better prices as well.

A vacation home is a great real estate investment that can make vacation planning much easier. With these tips in hand, you’ll be well equipped to find the perfect vacation home for your budget. If you’re ready to start the search for your dream vacation home, contact a local real estate agent today.

Experiencing ‘Purchase Anxiety’? How to Calm Your Nerves Before Committing to Buy a New Home

Experiencing 'Purchase Anxiety'? How to Calm Your Nerves Before Committing to Buy a New HomeWhether this is your first big purchase, or your family is moving to a new location or looking for more space, buying a home has its share of ups and downs.

It’s perfectly normal to feel anxious about whether or not you’ve found the right property. Here are some things you can do to make yourself feel more secure with your decision.

Do The Math

You’ve probably already done this, but it’s okay to go over it a number of times to be sure. Factor in your household income and all the bills you expect to pay every month. Add everything up.

It sounds like a stressful activity, but when you look at the numbers and realize that buying a home is actually doable, it can be a liberating feeling.

When you know for sure you can make it as a homeowner without getting underwater, you will feel more confident.

Meet The Neighbors

If you haven’t had the chance to knock on a couple of doors yet, you should spend some time saying hello to people in the neighborhood.

The more you can get to talking with families that are just like yours, the more you will be able to picture yourself as a member of the community. If you have kids, find out if there are other kids the same age nearby. That will help to ease their anxiety about moving as well.

Ask Your Agent

Don’t feel like you are being overly cautious if you ask your real estate agent your lingering questions. Make sure you’re getting a good price for the area, and make sure you know about any issues with the condition of the property. You should be able to trust that they’re excited for your decision, not just for making the sale.

Familiarize Yourself With The Neighborhood

Take a drive and figure out which stores you’re nearest to, the route you can take to get to work, and which other amenities you might take advantage of. Home buyers often underestimate how important living in a safe neighborhood with plenty of accessible businesses can be. The more you can imagine yourself living at your new address, the better you will feel.

Remember, never sign the papers on a new home unless you feel one hundred percent secure in your buying decision. If you need more answers, pick up the phone and call a real estate agent you can trust and who can walk you through every step of the process.

Real Estate Secrets: Understanding the ‘Option Period’ and What This Term Means for You as a Buyer

Real Estate Secrets: Understanding the 'Option Period' and What This Term Means for You as a Buyer When the sale of real estate takes place, a certain amount of time might be allotted after a contract is created but before the transaction is finalized.  During this time the buyer may decide not to follow through with the deal set forth in the contract. This ‘option period’ allows buyers to have a property inspected and its value ascertained without the risk of losing the property to another buyer.

What Happens When The Option Period Takes Place

Typically, a buyer must pay an option fee in order to be able to enjoy the luxury of an option period. During the option period, property inspections are typically carried out on the property in question so that the buyer can be sure that the proposed offer is appropriate.

The nonrefundable option fee that the buyer pays the seller (so that the seller agrees not to follow through on a transaction with another prospective buyer) compensates the seller for the time during which the property is off of the market.

Differences Between Various States

It is not always possible for a buyer to have an option period during which he or she can finalize plans to make a purchase on a property. Regulations and procedures between different states vary significantly.

It is worth noting that the state of Texas has a real estate market that is particularly well known for granting option periods. In Texas, the option period usually lasts between seven and 14 days and serves as a period of time during which inspections are carried out; however, other states have different ways of dealing with option periods and scheduling inspections.

Associated Expenses

The particular laws applicable where a sale takes place will often dictate how much a buyer needs to pay to the seller in option fee charges. In the state of Texas, for example, the option fee is usually no greater than 1 percent of the sale price of the home. The option fee is normally applied to the transaction at escrow closing in the event that the buyer decides to proceed with the sale.

Buyers who decide not to purchase a property after the option period has already begun will usually be responsible for paying the option fee to compensate the buyer for lost time. However, the buyer will be under no further contractual obligations.

If you have questions on the processes and regulations involved in a real estate transaction, contact an experienced real estate agent to learn more.

Home Buying Tips: Three Items to Watch out for in a Purchase Agreement Contract

Home Buying Tips: Three Items to Watch out for in a Purchase Agreement ContractThe purchase agreement is a vitally important document that outlines the provisions, terms and conditions for the transfer of property.

It should be read carefully and any ambiguities should be clarified prior to signing. It is a legally binding contract between the buyer and seller.

The purchase agreement may vary depending on the location. Most real estate agents use a form that has been approved by a state Realtors® Association.

The seller may have a different version that was drawn up by an attorney. It should not be assumed that they are all the same.

Typically, the purchase agreement will include an inspection period. This allows the buyer time to verify the conditions stated on the purchase agreement. Three of the most important stipulations in the contract are listed below.

All Owners Must Sign the Purchase Agreement

In most cases, the purchase agreement should be signed by the legal owner of the property.

If there is more than one owner, each owner should sign the agreement. In many states, both parties in a married couple have an interest in a property even if the title is held in one party’s name alone. Therefore, the purchase agreement should be signed by both parties of a married couple.

In the event the property is being sold by a corporation, verify that the person signing the agreement is authorized to commit the corporation to the sale.

List All Fixtures to be Transferred with the Sale

The purchase agreement should list all items that are to convey with the property. “Fixtures” are considered items that are attached to the property.

Legally, they should be included with the sale, but more than a few buyers have been dismayed to find the property stripped of countertops, appliances and window coverings. Any fixtures and personal property that are part of the sale should be included in the purchase agreement.

Verify Zoning Ordinances

The purchase agreement may contain various stipulations. One should include the right to cancel the contract if zoning prohibits the use of the property as planned.

Zoning ordinances may restrict the use of buildings or land. This may prove to be an obstacle for someone who intended to include a workshop on the property. The buyer should be able to withdraw from the contract if they discover that zoning prohibits the intended use.

These agreements can be complicated, so be sure to check with a local real estate agent if you’re unsure about how to proceed.

Five Absolute Truths About the Home Buying Process That You Will Need to Come to Terms With

Five Absolute Truths About the Home Buying Process That You Will Need to Come to Terms WithBuying a home is one of the most exciting times that an individual will undertake in life. However, a property purchase is not without its challenges, and these can cause frustration. In this article we’ll share five potential setbacks that home buyers will need to understand and come to terms with to make a successful purchase.

Homeowner’s Insurance is Necessary

Most lenders will require insurance before financing is approved. To fulfill these requirements, the policy should be for at least one year and proof that the policy has been paid for must be presented. Purchasing the policy is something that must be done before closing can take place, so if you’re sure that this is the home for you, don’t delay.

Some Sellers Are Firm, No Matter What

In an ideal situation, the buyer and the seller come to a mutual agreement very easily. However, in most cases negotiation of some type is likely to be a part of the process. As with most negotiations, to reach success both sides will need to compromise.

Probate Properties Have Special Terms

When the original homeowner has died, there are certain considerations to keep in mind that do not typically apply to other types of property. One is the fact that there is a special process that must be completed before the property can be sold, even though the heirs may advertise the property as being for sale ahead of time. Another factor to keep in mind is that a recently probated property may have been uninhabited for some time and will be sold ‘as is’.

Loan Offers May Not Be Set in Stone

A common pitfall for many buyers is the assumption that home financing will be approved without issue. Unexpected circumstances may arise that cause a mortgage loan to be denied, which can cause an unprepared buyer numerous issues. Many sellers, in anticipation of such problems, have a contingency requirement.

Expect Caution from Sellers

If a seller treats your offer with caution or trepidation, don’t take it personally. Many homeowners have been burned during previous sales, and you have no idea what the seller has been through with potential buyers this time around. If someone is exercising caution, there’s likely a good reason for it.

In closing, remember that the best way to purchase a home is through a real estate agent. When you’re ready to jump into the property market, contact a trusted local agent and they’ll be ready to assist.

Lowballing 101: How to Avoid Insulting a Home Seller when Making a Low Offer for Their House or Condo

Lowballing 101: How to Avoid Insulting a Home Seller when Making a Low Offer for Their House or CondoBuying a home is a huge step for people who are ready to make an investment in their future. Getting a great deal on a home is just as important and knowing how much to offer could be confusing. It is important to make sure the home seller is not insulted by the lowball offer and is ready to negotiate to make sure everyone wins.

Make a List of Necessary Improvements

One of the best ways to validate a lowball offer on a home is to list improvements that need to be made to the property. If the home needs a new roof or a new heating and air conditioning system, these are reasons to offer less than the asking price. Sometimes a home may also need new flooring, paint, or matching appliances which all cost money. The buyer can make a lowball offer stating additional expenses of making sure the home is move in ready.

Explain Any Issues with the Location

Another option when considering a lowball offer is to point out problems with the location. If the home is on a busy street or close to a manufacturing district, the buyer has legitimate concerns. In the offer, list the potential problems of living too close to fast food restaurants, train tracks, or airports. A less desirable location could equal a great buy on a new home.

Provide Pricing for Comparable Homes in the Area

A knowledgeable real estate agent can help compare homes that have sold in the area. When you are writing up a lowball offer, look at the lower priced homes that have sold in the same neighborhood. A seller will quickly realize that if he wants to sell the home, he will need to accept a reasonable offer or risk letting his house sit on the market for weeks or months.

Consider the Seller’s Reasons for Selling

Finally, the seller’s situation can also be key in getting a good deal on a home. If the seller is desperate to sell because of a job relocation or if he has already bought a new home this can be the perfect reason to make a low offer and take the home off the seller’s hands. Without insulting the seller, the buyer can make an offer for less than the asking price and agree to a quick closing.

Buying a home can be stressful and getting a good deal on the property without insulting the seller can take some negotiating. Working with a knowledgeable real estate agent will make the experience more enjoyable. Call today to make your dreams come true.

The ‘Must Have’ List: Why Deciding Your Must-Haves Before Viewing Homes is a Great Idea

The 'Must Have' List: Why Deciding Your Must-Haves Before Viewing Homes is a Great IdeaKnowing what you want before you start looking is a big help when house-hunting. Giving the list of ‘must-have’ items to your real estate professional a few days before you begin touring listings is a great idea because they can find homes that meet as many of your criteria as possible.

It also helps on a more personal level, since being organized and knowing what you want will help you quickly identify whether or not homes meet those standards.

Is it a ‘Must-Have’ or a ‘Nice-to-Have’?

The debate between “I need it” and “I want it” is as old as time. Thinking back to childhood, when the desire for a cookie was met with mom’s stern “not before dinner,” some children seem to develop a magical ability for reasoning that voiced a desperate need for cookies before dinner, but mom was never fooled. The same goes for the ‘must-have’ list for your home search.

There are items that you want and certain ‘deal breakers’ that you cannot live without. An absolute ‘must-have’ might be proximity to work or certain schools, whereas desirable features could include a shed or a built-in barbeque pit. Knowing the difference between something you want and something that is absolutely required can save you a lot of time and money.

How to Organize an Effective List

Write down everything your dream home would have, then ask yourself how necessary each item is. Rate them by priority, whether an absolute requirement, something you would definitely prefer, something for which you would consider a compromise, and something that you don’t really care that strongly about. That first group is your ‘must-have’ list. The second is your ‘nice-to-have’ list, which is a great guiding star for choosing between homes that meet all of your ‘must-have’ items.

Some Suggestions for a Great List

Location, location, location – The top of any good ‘must-have’ list should be location. No matter what else is changed in a home, the location will always remain a constant. Decide what you want to be close to or far away from and make sure the grounds and neighborhood are all acceptable.

Bedrooms and bathrooms – Does everyone need their own room? Do you need a guest room? Could everyone share one bathroom? Ask yourself what you need at a minimum to facilitate everyone in your home.

Energy-efficient windows and good insulation – It may seem technical, but an energy efficient home can save you a lot of money in the long run. Don’t let money seep through a poorly insulated home.

Space for pets – Not everyone has pets, but for those who do it is a good idea to think of them in your ‘must-have’ list. After all, your new home is going to be Fido’s new home too! A fenced yard or a dog run might be a good idea, but also consider whether the space would allow you to add your own later.

Call your real estate professional today to start house-hunting, and don’t forget your new list!

The 7 Most Unaffordable Cities for Real Estate in the USA (And 3 Affordable Gems!)

The 7 Most Unaffordable Cities for Real Estate in the USA (And 3 Affordable Gems!)As prices continue to rise across the board with everything from food to gas, it’s no wonder that real estate prices are high in many cities across the USA. While this is the case for a large number of cities, there are also certain areas in which prices are decidedly low. Here’s a small look at the most affordable and unaffordable cities within America.

The Seven Most Unaffordable Cities

Oakland, CA – Though Los Angeles and San Francisco are 2 California cities that may first come to mind, Oakland is also highly expensive when it comes to real estate, with a median home value of nearly $450,000, which is over 100 percent more than the national average.

Los Angeles, CA – Los Angeles is another city in California that is particularly unaffordable. With a median household income of just under $50,000, the exceedingly high median home value of nearly $470,000 is largely galling in its expensiveness.

Boston, MA – The Boston real estate market becomes more unaffordable with each passing year. The median home value within the city is set at well over $350,000. This, combined with the relatively high cost of living, can make for a bleak outlook.

New York City, NY – As one of, if not the most, unaffordable cities in America, NYC is also the most populous city in the United States. While the borough of Manhattan is the most expensive for real estate prices, Brooklyn and Queens aren’t much better, while the median home value of the entire city is just over $500,000.

Washington, D.C. – Though the median household income within the city of Washington D.C. is higher than the national average, the median home value sits at a substantial $443,000, with a cost of living over 40 percent above the national average.

San Francisco, CA – Living in San Francisco is extremely unaffordable, though mitigated a bit by higher household incomes. The median home value is likely the highest in the nation, at just over $750,000.

Honolulu, HI – As the capital city of Hawaii, Honolulu is much higher than the national average in everything from utilities to transportation, with the median home value sitting at $547,000.

Three Affordable Alternatives

Cleveland, OH – Though there are a surprising amount of affordable cities in Ohio, Cleveland has a median home value of just over $75,000, well below the state average of $129,000.

Knoxville, TN – Knoxville is a city in Tennessee that combines a generally low median home value of $140,000 with a median household income of just over $60,000, which is much higher than the national average.

Syracuse, NY – If you want to live in New York, but can’t afford the high real estate prices of NYC, the city of Syracuse has a low median home value of just under $80,000.

If you’re searching for the perfect city to buy your next home in, call your real estate agent today for all of the latest information.

Buying or Selling, Here Are Three Traits You’ll Want in Your Real Estate Agent

Buying or Selling, Here Are Three Traits You'll Want in Your Real Estate AgentFor both buyers and sellers, choosing the right real estate agent is an important and difficult decision, but making the right selection is critical. Consider the following essential characteristics for a real estate agent before signing a contract:

Experience

An agent must understand the real estate market as well as the practices and processes of buying and selling. While a new agent may have energy and desire, experienced agents will be able to offer insights and experiences which are likely to give their clients the edge in their deal. Experience also indicates negotiating skill.

Of course an agent must be licensed, but they must also be knowledgeable about the specific neighborhoods and types of property their clients are interested in buying or selling. Commercial properties are much different than residential properties, for example, so find an agent with the experience you need.

Creativity

Since a variety of problems can happen at any point in a real estate deal, a real estate agent should be able to solve problems creatively. An agent who helps their clients think through problems, offers reasonable alternatives or finds a way to overcome obstacles is invaluable to both buyers and sellers.

Marketing is essential in the real estate world, so an agent who knows how to creatively use technology to entice buyers or to locate homes is a benefit. Buyers usually start their search online, so an appealing, user-friendly and updated website is essential. For sellers, videos are often the best way to display the best features of a home. These are today’s real estate tools, so an agent who knows how to use them has a better chance of making an effective deal for their clients.

Honesty

Home sellers need someone who will be realistic with them about the value of their home, no matter what other homes in the neighborhood are selling for or what the sellers think their home is worth. Home buyers need an agent who will tell them, for example, that consistently under-bidding in order to get more home for their money is not a viable strategy. These conversations are difficult, but an honest agent will have them in order to achieve a successful result.

Another aspect of honesty is maintaining consistent communication in whatever form suits their clients. Even if there is nothing new to discuss, a quick update to say that nothing is happening is essential to maintaining trust. Silence is a sign of denial or worse, so an agent who communicates regularly is being honest with their clients.

Finally, an agent should be honest enough to put their client’s interest ahead of their own, showing the client every house that fits the criteria and not just those that will get the agent the biggest commission. An effective seller’s agent will give their clients the feedback they receive from potential buyers, even if the news is discouraging. Keeping problem areas from a seller may keep the relationship friendly, but it does not put the seller’s interest above the agent’s.

Call a local and professional real estate agent specializing in your real estate needs. This is the first step to owning the home of your dreams.